Ahh yes, another fresh crop of games are set for Week 4 of the 2016 NFL season; a week that will start to peel back the true identity of all 32 teams. This week has already demonstrated that Rex Ryan is delusional (we knew that), Ryan Tannehill has peaked, J.J. Watt’s career might have just taken a turn for the worst, and Josh Gordon blue balled us with his return. We’ve been blessed with another great week, so let’s get into it.
By Matt Jarecki
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
Line: Cincinnati -7
Final Score: Miami 7 – Cincinnati 22
2 Cents: This was actually a fairly interesting game – not in terms of on-field play, but instead in terms of where each of these quarterbacks stand. We’ve known for a while that Andy Dalton is limited, and is bad at pregame speeches. There have been major questions though, about whether he can keep the Bengals viable with the departure of offensive coordinator Hugh Jackson and receivers Marvin Jones Jr. and Mohamed Sanu. Dalton was fine – as usual – and relied heavily on his All Pro receiver A.J. Green. He reaffirmed the belief that he can’t carry his team to victories, but he can certainly steer the boat. On the other hand, last night must have been a back-breaker for the Dolphin’s organization. Now 1 – 3, the Dolphins (and everyone else) are fully aware that Ryan Tannehill can’t carry his team to victories, and has a shotty boat to steer. Unfortunately for Tannehill, he doesn’t have the defense or head coach that Andy Dalton inherited. Get used to 7-9, Miami.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (Played in London)
Line: Indianapolis -3
Predicted Score: Indianapolis 24 – Jacksonville 21
2 Cents: First off, both of these teams have defensive-minded head coaches that are hindering their talented young quarterbacks. I will, however, support Gus Bradley, who at least has a good defense down in Jacksonville. Chuck Pagano on the other hand… since 2013 his defenses have ranked 20th, 11th, 26th, and 24th in yards/game. The Colts need to reboot – from their GM down to Pagano: get these guys out of here and get Andrew Luck some help. As for this match up, there really is no home-field advantage, and neither team has a running game, so this will be somewhat of a shootout. Andrew Luck is the better quarterback and has proven he can overcome his team’s incompetence and produce wins. Bortles hasn’t shown us that. Colts win despite team woes.
The Catch: Jacksonville is fighting for their life (and Gus Bradley’s job), and they have allowed the 8th fewest yards/game this season.
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons
Line: Carolina -3
Predicted Score: Carolina 27 – Falcons 17
2 Cents: The Atlanta Falcons are a scary team, poised to challenge Carolina for first place atop the NFC South right? Wrong. After beating the league’s two worst defenses, the Falcons must be feeling pretty good about themselves. Carolina, on the other hand, is an angry (and good) team coming off an ugly loss to one of the leagues best defenses. Let’s just look at the numbers: Carolina’s defense ranks 3rd in total yards allowed/game, and gives up just 197 yards through the air per game. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s defense is on the opposite end of the spectrum, ranking 30th in yards allowed per game, and giving up 318 passing yards per game. Carolina will assert their dominance among NFC South teams this week.
The Catch: Matt Ryan has been lights out this year with a 70% completion rating, and a 7 to 1 TD/Interception ratio. Even with Atlanta’s leaky defense, that kind of production gives any team a chance
Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens
Line: Baltimore -3 1/2
Predicted Score: Oakland 21 – Baltimore 24
2 Cents: This is one of the most interesting match ups in week 4. Baltimore is off to a 3-0 start after facing 3 of the leagues worst teams. We are about to find out whether this top 10 Ravens defense is for real, as they face the league’s 2nd ranked rushing attack, and 8th ranked passing attack. Three key factors will impact the outcome of this game. #1: The Ravens give up the fewest yards per reception in the NFL, while the Raiders give up the the most yards per reception at 14.5 (have a day Mike Wallace). Key factor #2: The Raiders are a young, west coast team heading into their second-straight road game. A tired team vs a stout defense at home is a losing combination. Key factor #3: John Harbaugh is the superior coach to Jack Del Rio
The Catch: Derek Carr is proving to be really good, and has shown that he’s not afraid to go on the road and steal a victory. He’s gone 6-4 in his last 10 road games, including 2 straight road wins to start this season.
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
Line: Detroit -3
Predicted score: Detroit 27 – Chicago 13
2 Cents: I was surprised to see that Vegas only had Detroit as a 3 point favorite in this game. I just don’t see any chance for the Bears to keep it close this week. Listen, the Lions lost last week as a result of a non-existent run game, a very good Green Bay defensive line, and the inability to stop Aaron Rogers and his 250 pound running back Eddie Lacy. You know what the Bears don’t have? They don’t have a good run defense, they don’t have a good pass rush, their quarterback is currently Bryan Hoyer, and they’re using their 3rd string running back. By the way, Matthew Stafford is still humming, coming off a 385 yard performance that saw him throw 3 TD’s and 1 interception. Lions win big.
The Catch: Vegas isn’t stupid. Spreads like this mean Vegas knows something the public doesn’t.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Line: Houston -5
Predicted Score: Tennessee 10 – Houston 17
2 Cents: Marcus Mariota showed a lot of promise in his first year, but as we touched on before, coaching matters with these young quarterbacks. I don’t know what the Titans’ front office was thinking when they decided to promote Mike Mularkey, who now has a record of 19-41 as a head coach in the NFL. Fortunately for the Titans, the strength of their offense (8th in the league in rushing yards) is also Houston’s defensive weakness. That will prove to be the only bright spot for Tennessee in week 4 though. Houston is coming home after an embarrassing loss to the Patriots to prove that they aren’t phonies. Houston has the 4th most productive running back in the league in Lamar Miller, the far better receiving core, and the superior coach in this in-division match up.
The Catch: Houston just lost All Pro J.J. Watt for the year. Watt was the heart and soul of Houston’s defense, and his absence will undoubtedly have a considerable impact on their pass and run defense.
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Line: New England -7.5
Predicted Score: Buffalo 17 – New England 24
2 Cents: This match up juxtaposes possibly the greatest NFL head coach of all time, Bill Belichick, against possibly the biggest buffoon of all time, Rex Ryan. While Rex was spending this week mocking Bill Belichick, and prank calling Julian Edelman, Belichick was surely constructing a game plan to get his team to 4-0. Assuming that Jimmy Garoppolo starts this game, the Patriots will have the edge at quarterback, head coach, total rushing yards gained, and total passing yards gained. Oh, and the Patriots are at home. Do I need to tell you anything else?
The Catch: Rex Ryan’s defense did rally last week, and it seems the Bills are now using the same formula that Rex’s early Jets team’s used successfully.
Seattle Seahawks at New York Jets
Line: Seattle -3
Predicted Score: Seattle 17 – New York 13
2 Cents: This will be an ugly game. The Seahawks exploded last week in a win over the 49ers, but Russell Wilson suffered a sprained MCL. The Jets couldn’t move the ball against a Kansas City defense that picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick six times. What do those outcomes tell me? This game will be Christine Micheal vs Matt Forte, with sprinkles of Wilson and Fitzpatrick. Both of these teams are top 10 against the run, with the Jets allowing 3.3 yards per attempt compared to the Seahawks 3.5. With two stingy run defenses, Russell Wilson’s decision making on critical 3rd downs will be what wins Seattle this game. I can’t trust Ryan Fitzpatrick against a Seattle secondary that is giving up the second fewest yards per game to quarterbacks (and neither can Todd Bowles).
The Catch: A sprained MCL is nothing to take lightly, and Russell Wilson has gone from iron man to often-injured this season. The Seahawks O-line will struggle against a Jets front that has 9 sacks already
Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins
Line: Washington -7 1/2
Predicted Score: Cleveland 17 – Washington 21
2 Cents: This is the definition of a trap game. Cleveland is coming off of a 5 point loss to the undefeated Ravens, and an overtime loss to Miami. They are on the verge of an upset (which is all Browns fans have to live for these days). Washington is coming off of a must-win game against the Giants in which Kirk Cousins was better than Eli Manning. Teams coming off of big wins make me nervous, but Washington will pull out this win for 3 reasons. 1: Kirk Cousins was under-fire in the media last week (and possibly with his teammates), but went out and won his team the game. That’s about the only way to shut people (like me) up, and stabilize the locker room. 2: This is Cody Kessler’s second NFL start. Last week Kessler threw for 244 yards with no picks and no TD’s, but don’t be fooled. There is now one week of film on him, and Washington knows his limitations. Expect Kessler to toss a couple picks. 3: Cleveland is a bottom half of the league defense in every statistical category, and they don’t have the offense to make up for it.
The Catch: Cleveland is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and sits at 4th in the league in total rushing yards. Their running game is the reason the Brown’s haven’t been blown out these last few games. This game will come down to the wire.
Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Line: Denver -3 1/2
Predicted Score: Denver 21 – Tampa Bay 23
2 Cents: This is the game to put your money on. I know Trevor Siemian blew all of you away last week with his 4 TD performance ok? Did you know though, that the Cincinnati defense ended that game allowing the most touchdown’s to quarterbacks (9)? While Tampa Bay’s defense is only slightly better than Cincinnati’s so far, that is not the story going into this match up. Denver is on their second straight road game, while Tampa is comfortably at home for their second straight home game. Jameis Winston, who bounced back last week with 400 yards and 3 TD’s to 1 pick, is a quarterback than Siemian. Winston’s weapons, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Evans are huge. Those big receivers will be key, because the wide receiver that has given Denver the most trouble this season is Kelvin Benjamin (6’5′). Tampa’s defense is sneaky good against the run, the Bronco’s bread and butter, allowing just 3.5 yards per carry (8th in the league). Tampa Bay wins close against a Denver team that is better, but tired.
The Catch: Denver’s defense is still top 10, and is especially good against the pass, which has been Tampa’s strength to this point. If Trevor Siemian is for real, he should be able to post similar numbers to last week against a pass defense that is slightly worse than Cincinnati.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Line: Arizona -8
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 9 – Arizona 24
2 Cents: We’ve seen this story before. Arizona gets embarrassed by an AFC East team, goes home, takes out their frustration on an inferior, younger team coming off a big win. The difference this week is that the inferior team coming off a big win is starting Case Keenum at quarterback, not Jameis Winston. The Rams, who are entering their second road game in a row, will suffer this week against a motivated Cardinals team that has yet to play up to their potential. Arizona is better at head coach, quarterback, total defense, total offense (LA is last in the league), and has home field advantage. Los Angeles breaks the hearts of their hip – new fan base after providing a glimmer of hope last week.
The Catch: The Ram’s offense seemed rejuvenated last week, while Carson Palmer looked old. While probably an anomaly, and a result of Rex Ryan’s desperation, there is a chance that we are about to see a sharp decline of a 36 year old Palmer; one that the Rams can capitalize on.
New Orleans Saints at San Diego Chargers
Line: San Diego -4
Predicted Score: New Orleans 31 – San Diego 27
2 Cents: This will be a highly offensive game, as both teams have quarterbacks playing at a very high level, and both teams have defenses that aren’t close to formidable. There are 3 factors that give the Saints an edge in this match up. 1: San Diego’s pass defense is somehow worse than New Orleans’, having allowed 966 total pass yards to New Orleans’ 897. 2: Philip Rivers has lost his two most productive weapons for the season in Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen, and will be without his (now first) option Antonio Gates this week. The proof was in the pudding last week when Rivers didn’t throw a touchdown against a weak Indianapolis defense. 3: As good as Phillip Rivers is playing, Drew Brees is playing great. Through 3 games Brees has compiled 1062 passing yards, 8 TD’s to only 1 interception. Jesus.
The Catch: San Diego is 4th in the league in interceptions with 4. New Orleans is 1 of 2 teams with none. A Drew Brees pick, or two, could change this game because New Orleans can’t play a lick of defense.
Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers
Line: Dallas -3
Predicted Score: Dallas 21 – San Francisco 24
2 Cents: Dallas is on a 2 game winning streak after beating two very mediocre teams. The 49ers are coming off a 2 game stretch of blowouts provided by Carolina and Seattle; two teams with top 10 defenses and top 10 quarterbacks. I mean, both teams in this week 4 match up are extremely mediocre. Dallas has allowed only 273 rushing yards this season, but have given up 5 yards/carry compared to San Francisco’s 4 yards/carry. San Francisco is 14th in the league against the pass, compared to Dallas at 23rd. Dallas has gained 50 more yards on the ground, and 227 more yards in the air this season than San Francisco, but against far worse defenses. This is a dead heat in terms of statistics. San Fransisco wins this game as a result of being the battle-tested team, having a defense that has allowed over 20 points only once in their last 9 home games, because they are facing a Dallas team on their second straight road game.
The Catch: Dallas has the highest 3rd down conversion percentage in the league at 52.5%, compared to San Fransisco’s 34.8%. That number is a testament to what Dak Prescott has done this season. Dak has a real chance to beat this average 49ers team and raise his stock.
Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers
Line: Pittsburgh -5
Predicted Score: Kansas City 24 – Pittsburgh 28
2 Cents: I can’t wait to watch this match up unfold. Pittsburgh dominated their first two games, and then got clobbered by a surprisingly good Eagles team. Expect Big Ben and Le’veon Bell to will their team to a victory this week against a Kansas City team that has been good but not great. Pittsburgh hasn’t been a very good defensive team this year, but Kansas City has been average running and passing the ball on offense. Kansas City has a good secondary that is 11th in the league in passing yards allowed this year, which should stifle the Steelers 14th ranked pass offense. The difference in this game will be the run game. Kansas City gets Jaamal Charles back this week after recovering from his second ACL tear, but he will be running straight into the league’s 4th ranked rushing defense. Le’veon Bell, on the other hand, is completely healthy, returning from a 3 game suspension and running straight into the leagues 23rd ranked rushing defense. Steelers win close.
The Catch: Doug Pederson brought an offense to Philly that very much resembles what the Chiefs do with Alex Smith. That same offense just scored 34 on the Steelers.
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Line: Minnesota -4 1/2
Predicted Score: New York 21 – Vikings 24
2 Cents: This is the best Monday Night Football match up that’s taken place in a while. The Giants look like they are on the verge of being a real contender (if that defense can gel), and the Vikings are better than anybody outside of Minnesota thought they would be. Minnesota’s defense is allowing the 6th fewest net yards in the league, but the Giants aren’t far behind, ranked 10th. The Giants have been a proficient passing offense this year at 7th in the league, but we have already seen the Vikings stuff Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league rushing the ball, and both teams are top 10 against the run. So what will be the x-factor in this game? Minnesota tops the league with 15 sacks, and is 2nd in the league with 5 interceptions. Eli Manning has been sacked twice every game this year, and has a mediocre TD to interception ratio of 4 to 3 so far. The Vikings defense will win this game.
The Catch: Eli Manning is known for rising to the occasion, and is too oblivious to know when he’s the underdog.